Olympic Executive Cleared of Scandal Charges

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Lausanne, Switzerland, May 16 (AP by Naomi Koppel)--Kevan Gosper plans to get back to promoting the Sydney Olympic Games after the IOC ethics commission found that he resisted repeated attempts to court him with gifts.

The International Olympic Committee vice president was cleared of charges that he and his family accepted excessive hospitality from the organizers of the successful Salt Lake City bid to play host to the 2002 Winter Olympics.

``I don't think I have ever felt such a sense of release and relief,'' Gosper said after Monday's announcement. ``It has been very hard for my family and my close friends.''

Gosper said he was now thinking only of the future.

``I think the thing uppermost in my mind now after these weeks is that I can get my focus back onto the Olympics. I am a sports administrator, but in my heart I have never stopped being an Olympian,'' said Gosper, who won a silver medal in the 1,600-meter relay at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

Gosper referred his case to the eight-member ethics commission in January after reports that Salt Lake City spent more than $30,000 on trips for Gosper and his family. In March, Gosper resigned from the panel, which he helped set up last year in the wake of the Salt Lake City scandal, which led to the resignation or removal of 10 IOC members.

Monday's report, prepared by New York lawyer Martin Lipton, said that the bid committee tried to make Gosper and his wife accept hospitality, and when it became clear that the couple would insist on paying, organizers instead hid the real cost,

When Gosper's wife, Judy, and their two children went to Salt Lake City in 1993, they treated it as a private visit to see Tom Welch, then head of the bid committee, and his family. He did not know the trip was being subsidized by the bid committee, the report said.

Mrs. Gosper had no reason to suppose that the condominium she stayed in was actually rented and was not owned by a friend, as Welch claimed.

When she insisted on paying for the use of the condominium, she was told the cost was $1,500, and she arranged to pay the money. In fact, the cost of the rental was $8,126, and the bid committee paid for most of it.

Mrs. Gosper also went to a Billy Joel concert on what she was told was a ``spare'' ticket. She bought a ski suit, and was told the price was $200. In fact, it cost $595, and the bid committee paid the difference.

The report said that in May 1995, an official IOC trip by Gosper and his wife was appropriate, and that the IOC rules on hospitality were not broken, although the bid committee arranged travel for Mrs. Gosper.

Lipton, who carried out the inquiry, said he believed the Gospers honestly tried to pay for everything they were offered.

``There is just no question in my mind that Mr. Gosper has told exactly the truth with respect to what transpired in Salt Lake City,'' he said.

Gosper said he hoped he could now put all his problems behind him, including another controversy that hit last week when he came under attack in Australia for allowing his 11-year-old daughter to replace another girl as Australia's first torch bearer for the Sydney Games.

Gosper has since apologized, blaming ``fatherly pride'' for his poor judgment. He offered to forego his own leg of the torch relay in Melbourne in favor of the girl who missed out _ 16-year-old Yianna Souleles, a student of Greek heritage.

``I have done my very best to address the torch relay question, and I would like to think people will accept that,'' Gosper said.

He added that he had no hard feelings towards anybody in Salt Lake City.

``I think Salt Lake City has addressed the problems and I think they are preparing for a great games. I really want to think forward and not backwards,'' he said.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press